Getting to know one’s HIV status is a difficult thing for many people. It comes with lots of panic and to the point that many people even collapsed getting to know that they are HIV positive.
Due to the Psychological effects and emotional trauma people go through, coupled with stigma, many people do not want to test at all.
As the world marks World AIDS Day on the theme “End inequalities. End AIDS”, we take a look at the life of a person living with HIV in Tarkwa in the Western Region to know how life has been after testing positive.
For the purposes of this story, I decided to give her the name.
For Akosua Mansah (not her real name), knowing that she was HIV positive was not a worry to her at all, because she was aware that there are drugs that could keep her safe in order to live long.
How she got to know
Haven been treated for typhoid for a long time in 2014 without any result, prompted doctors to test Akosua Mansah for HIV, after which she tested positive.
“I was sick and went to the hospital and they give me medicine for typhoid fever. I took the drug for some time, but I was not getting better. So, I went back to the hospital and reported that I was not getting better after taking the drugs. The doctor told me he will test for HIV, and I said okay. The results came and I was positive”, Akosua Mansah told Ghanaweb.
But that was not a problem to her at all, because she was given a medication that could suppress her viral load.
“I was not worried, knowing that I was positive, because I know that are drugs that will make look good”, she said.
According to Akosua Mansah, “before I got to know my status, I was not married. But along the line, a gentleman approached me for marriage. I told her of my status and he accepted to marry me”.
She added that we went to the hospital to check his status and he was negative. We were then advised on what to do in order not to infect him with the virus.
God has blessed them with a five-year-old child who is also HIV-negative. This is because she took her drugs religiously.
U=U (undetectable means untransmittable)/Treatment
Through the continuous intake of HIV medication, one is able to reduce the viral load to the point where the virus is undetectable. At this level, the person cannot transmit the virus to anyone. And this is termed as (U=U). undetectable means untransmittable.
Akosua Mansah said after taking Tenofovir Lamivudine Dolutegravir (TLD), a combined drug for treating HIV, her viral load was suppressed to the point that the virus was not detectable, “so I was able to give birth to an HIV negative child.
Speaking in an interview, The ART Nurse at the Tarkwa Municipal Hospital Gifty Konadu indicated that Akosua Mansah was unable to transmit to her husband and child because she constantly took her drugs.
She explained that “as we notice that you are positive, we take you through counseling and tell you that you can give birth to a baby who is negative, so to achieve that you have to take the drug called Tenofovir Lamivudine Dolutegravir very well”.
She said if one is able to take the drug very well, the viral load will be suppressed within six months, “so within a year, we expect that the viral load will be less than twenty or the virus will be undetectable. At this level, you can have unprotected sex with your partner without infecting him or her. And this is termed as U=U (undetectable, untransmittable)”
“On the other hand, if you don’t take your drug well and do not follow advise, you will not meet the target so within six months if we ask you to go to the lab your virus will be above thousand and this means that the possibility of transmitting the virus to your partner or child is very high”, she added.
The 95-95-95 agenda
It is estimated by UNAIDS, that by 2030, 95 percent of people living with HIV will know their status, 95 percent of such people will be on treatment and 95 percent of people on treatment will have their viral load suppressed. This is known as the 95-95-95 target.
As a result of this, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the USAID Care Continuum Project has concentrated its activities in the Western Region and Sefwi Wiawso to accelerate Ghana’s progress in attaining the 95-95-95 goal by achieving epidemic control in these regions in Ghana.
To this end, the HIV Focal Person in the Tarkwa Nsuaem Municipality in the Western Region, Rhoda Gyapong is encouraging all to go out and test in order to know their status.
According to her, “if you get tested and you are negative you can move on with your life, but if you are positive, then we give you the necessary counseling and referral to start your treatment”.
Rhoda advised the public to remain committed to the ABC way of prevention; Abstinence, Faithful and Condom usage.
Commenting on Akosua Mansah’s situation, she said hearing about Akosua’s case is encouraging. This is because many people find it difficult to test, not to even talk of getting to know that they are HIV positive due to the psychological effects and stigma from society.
But for Akosua Mansah, the issue of stigma has not been a problem to her at all. This is because it is only her husband and mum who are aware of her status.
She explained that “when they told me I was HIV positive, I took it easy, apart from my mum and my husband nobody knows about it. So, nobody can point a finger at me that I have HIV. So, I don’t have any problem when it comes to stigma’.
She added that “my husband loves me very well because he always reminds me to take my drugs always, and I eat well, that is why I am healthy”.
While thanking the staff of the HIV Unit at the Tarkwa Municipal Hospital, Akosua Mansah urged people who are HIV positive not to hide but rather go to the hospital in order to get drugs that will make them live longer.
Story by Thomas Tetteh/westernghnews.com